January 27, 2014

The Honourable Denis Lebel,
Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs

It was with great shock that I learned that the federal government has turned its back to the people of Eastern Quebec and the Maritimes. The New Brunswick government and Canadian National Railways came to an agreement to save parts of CN’s Newcastle Sub without any participation of the federal government. You are no doubt aware that CN plans to abandon about 43 miles of the middle part of this section of track between roughly Bathurst and Miramichi. VIA Rail uses this route for the Ocean between Montreal and Halifax. The cancellation of this train will affect the people of Eastern Quebec and the Maritimes and leave this part of Eastern Canada without any passenger rail service. Before VIA Rail’s drastic cuts in 2012, this train carried 134,000 passengers in 2011, a 5.5% increase from the year before.

The federal government often assists other levels of government in this country’s infrastructure. Indeed, two examples come to mind of the federal government earmarking of funds to rehabilitate track for passenger rail service. The Island Corridor Foundation gets $7.5 million for Vancouver Island, and the Shining Waters Railway project gets $150 million for the Toronto to Peterborough passenger train. The amount that will save this vital passenger rail link is just $10 million. This government stepped up to the plate for other parts of Canada, why will the government not provide the necessary funding for this line in Eastern Canada?

Long distance trains, such as VIA Rail’s Ocean, provide service to intermediate points that are served poorly, if at all, by other modes of transportation. Canada has a great highway system, but it is not accessible to people that don’t have a car or otherwise don’t want to drive long distances. Rural communities that lose long distance train service puts the elderly, students, and people with reduced mobility at a disadvantage in traveling for visiting medical clinics, schools and universities, visiting family and friends, and for jobs.

Yours truly,

Barry Brake
Montreal, QC

The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport
Olivia Chow, Official Opposition Transport Critic
David McGuinty, Liberal critic - Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
The Gaspé Spec